Under a rust orange, crescent moon, I sat on the concrete steps leading up to St. Martin, the boy’s house, chatting with a few of the young men. George (not pictured), a 12 year old in the 6th grade, began asking about life in the US, which led us into a conversation about American opportunity and the lack thereof here, in their homeland of Liberia.
George is exceptionally smart for his age from what I can tell – his English is more understandable, and he is conceptualizing about some serious issues on his own – so, wanting desperately to encourage him, I reminded him of these strengths and the possibilities they can render.
“But even if you have a good mind, no opportunity (is) here for you anyway,” he responded. “(It is) impossible to get good job. Only some people have all the money.”
I struggled with my response. It is true that most Liberians live on under 1 USD per day. I would love to drop the opportunity of America on the doorstep of Liberia Mission – these kids deserve more than the blessed opportunities I have been given and too often take for granted.
But our Liberia Mission commitment is to help break the vicious cycle of poverty, corruption and inopportunity– not to break links in a new chain of positivism and peace. To encourage kids to flee to America would rob Liberia of the strongest, one-day leaders of this broken country. We believe that by cultivating the children’s education and spiritual growth, they will become nation builders and community leaders, and with patience and the grace of God, the cycle will break.
But still, how do you look a child like George in the face, and tell him to “keep trying, focus on your studies so more doors open for you, don’t give up, have faith?” How do you encourage them to remain in Liberia, to re-build the nation and reform its people. He lives in the opportunity gap. He is the expert, not me.
But God continues to spring inside me a confidence in these children and in what they will be able to offer their country one day. I told them these things and how much their country needs them. Our conversation shifted to topics like the pressures of sex and the corrupt acts of polygamy and rape. We talked about staying on the path of righteousness in order to take care of themselves so one day they can take care of another human being, a wife, a family, a community…
The boys latched on to the words God spoke through me, and I saw in them the future leaders of Liberia. They already are the missing links.